Many of us look back at our elementary school years and laugh at our lack of style or our awkwardness. I look back at my middle school years and think of an insecure overweight, curly-haired girl.

Simply put, I showed no self-confidence. In class, I was riddled with anxiety which prevented me from displaying any knowledge of the material. My teachers misinterpreted my anxiety with a lack of understanding of the material, so they sent me out of the classroom for extra help. It was because of this that my 5th grade teacher refused to put me in the honors track for middle school despite receiving straight A’s.

In 8th grade, I was finally put in honors, where I continued to receive straight A’s. After ninth grade, I lost all my weight--30 pounds. With that loss, I gained a lot. I became someone who was no longer afraid or insecure. I joined my high school’s tennis team and other extra-curriculars, in which I rose to leadership positions. I ran a half marathon, played first singles on my school’s tennis team, founded a thriving club in my high school, and was accepted to Cornell University.

During the first month of first semester, I met with a professor asking how I can get an A in his class. His response was “what makes you think you should get an A?” The most repeated phrase during freshman orientation was along the lines of “don’t expect to get A’s” or “you were all the top of your class in high school, but you won’t all be at the top here.” These warnings did not scare me because I know what it’s like to not be at the top and to get there with a lot of hard work and a lot of failures in between, so I had confidence in myself that my adjustment to Cornell would be no different.

When I heard my professor’s response, I immediately thought about middle school Rebecca. At that point, I would never imagine accomplishing what I had by the end of high school. So I responded “I am not expecting to get an A, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.”

Much like my experience throughout high school, I have learned during my first semester that college is about doing everything you can to get to where you want to be--congratulating yourself when you do or learning from your mistakes when you don’t. The only difference was I skipped the period of insecurity where I let people make me feel like I couldn’t do it.

So don’t let professors make you feel like you’re just one student in a class of 800 geniuses. Every failure is just another step closer to success, whether it means redefining our initial criteria of success or accomplishing our original goals.